AERO INDIA: Gripen push shows Saab 'here to stay' in Indian market

Bangalore
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Saab is here with its largest ever presence at Aero India, with the Swedish manufacturer pursuing both the Indian air force's medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) deal and a long-term relationship with local industry.

"The company realised the importance of growing in this market several years ago, and our presence at this show reflects our commitment," says Eddy de la Motte, director Gripen India. "This is not only a Gripen thing. This is a great market and we're here to stay."

Several tie-ups have already been made, including with Indian conglomorate Mahindra, and with Bangalore-based firms CIM Tools, Quest Engineering and Tata Advance Material.

Saab Gripen NG @ Aero India, Billypix
 © Billypix

In addition to the attendance of three Swedish air force Gripen C/Ds, Saab has brought two of its regional aircraft and airborne surveillance products, the 340 and larger 2000 turboprop. Its Skeldar unmanned helicopter is also on display, along with command and control systems and electronic warfare equipment.

But it is in the $10 billion-plus MMRCA contest that it is placing most attention. "We believe that we have the best aircraft for the Indian air force, and are offering an unbeatable technology transfer programme," says de la Motte. "This is a chance for India to decide if it wants to be independent in future fighter technology and to be able to design and build systems on a par with the rest of the world."

Meanwhile, Saab's Top Gun contest - which offers the chance for one Indian civilian to fly in the Gripen - has caused a major stir, with a competition page on the company's website having attracted more than 150,000 visits.

De la Motte says a shortlist of five candidates will be invited to the show on Saturday to fly the Gripen simulator, before a winner is selected to fly the aircraft for real by Sunday.